Bicycle Treatments on a Former Pedestrian Mall
Prepared by Dave Reinhard and Diane Bishop, formerly with the City of Eugene
In 2002, a three-block, 1970s-era pedestrian mall on Broadway in downtown Eugene, Oregon, was reconstructed and reopened to vehicular traffic. Previously, two other street segments were rebuilt and reopened to traffic: a two-block section of Olive Street in 1992, and two blocks of Willamette Street in 1996.
While there was widespread agreement in the community that the pedestrian mall had failed to achieve the goal of revitalizing downtown Eugene, all three street reopening projects were somewhat controversial, and each project went forward only after winning approval in a city-wide election. The mixture of vehicle and bicycle traffic on each street was the topic of much discussion and feedback. Experience with the Olive and Willamette Street projects led the project team to modify the street design for Broadway, and the results appear to be more agreeable to most of the bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists using the street.
At the time of the project, several of the busiest one-way streets downtown had bicycle lanes, but there were still some gaps in the network, leading to bicycling on sidewalks and streets without signed bicycle facilities. City ordinance required bicyclists to dismount and walk their bikes on the former pedestrian mall, though enforcement was minimal. For these reasons, when the decision was made to begin converting segments of the mall back to vehicular streets, city staff recognized the opportunity to enhance the downtown bicycle network by providing bicycle infrastructure on the restored street segments.
An earlier Olive Street design, with 14-foot lanes along parking and 11-foot lanes approaching Broadway, was not favored by bicyclists.
The earlier designs on Olive and Willamette were seen by some bicyclists as the worst of both worlds; the project included medians and parking bays, but when the travel lanes were widened by up to three additional feet to provide wider lanes for the mix of cars and bicycles, the unintended effect was anti-traffic calming. The relatively high speed traffic meant that bicyclists continued to use the adjacent sidewalk, which poses a hazard for pedestrians and puts the bicyclist in a position where drivers are not anticipating their presence. To mitigate these safety concerns, the design of Broadway was approached differently. The project presented an opportunity to combine very narrow lanes and other design elements in a way that resulted in a truly slow-traffic, pedestrian-oriented street in the heart of downtown.
The design for the three-block Broadway reopening project came together over a period of several months in the fall and winter of 2001/2002. The process involved an unprecedented degree of interaction and cooperation among city staff and private design consultants, many of whom worked within a block or two of the Broadway segment. This enabled the group to use a process termed a rolling charrette, in which 10 to 20 people at a time would walk slowly from one end of the project to the other, discussing issues and design options, and seeking agreement on the key design features for Broadway. After several of these rolling charrettes and many other informal and formal opportunities for input and dialog, the following major design features emerged:
Travel lanes as narrow as 10 feet were used throughout the length of the three-block segment of Broadway. Unlike Olive and Willamette Streets, travel lanes would not be widened to provide for side-by-side motorists and bicyclists. Instead, the expectation of very slow-moving vehicular traffic would be reinforced by having cars and bikes use the same space.
Raised median islands narrow the street and offer a safe pedestrian refuge.
Raised median island
This feature, which was abandoned for the earlier designs of Olive and Willamette Streets, was re-introduced based on its overall success and widespread popularity on several older segments of Broadway and Willamette just one block away from the mall. A raised median island about 4 feet wide was viewed as having several advantages. It provided more space for landscaping, which reduced the glare and related drawbacks of the added hardscape of the newly built street. By planting trees and shrubs in the median, the motorists view down the street would be interrupted, which would reinforce the notion of needed to move slowly down a narrow street, rather than being able to see uninterrupted pavement several blocks ahead. The median provided a safe landing spot for pedestrians, who were encouraged to cross at multiple locations, not just intersections. Finally, the median provided a left edge for each travel lane that helped visually narrow the lane, encouraging slower speeds.
Raised crossing, pavement color changes, street furniture at edge of street encourage slower speeds.
Variations in pavement height and texture
Each block of Broadway features a midblock crossing raised to the full height of the curb (though with a gradual transition for motorists and cyclists to avoid a speed hump effect). The intersection of Broadway and Willamette is raised six inches and the portion of Broadway just east of Willamette is paved in brick and raised to the height of the adjacent brick plaza, extending the raised intersection into an at-grade street section. In addition to its traffic calming effect, this enhances the use of the street as an extension of the plaza on occasions when the streets are closed for major events.
Before the reopening of Broadway, the two locations where Olive and Willamette Streets crossed Broadway were not stop-controlled. Because Broadway was a pedestrian mall, warrants for stop control were not met. This led to a number of complaints by pedestrians who felt that cars were going too fast, or that too many motorists would not stop for pedestrians at these crossings.
The at-grade intersection and street section blend in with adjoining outdoor plaza.
The new Broadway with 10 ft lanes, median islands, and parking bays.
Evaluation and Results
Now that all portions of the former mall have been converted to pedestrian-oriented streets with slow-moving auto traffic, the overall results have been received favorably. The combined visual effect of all these features provides significant reinforcement for the concept of a slow-moving, pedestrian-oriented street. Motorists tend to travel slowly and somewhat uncertainly down Broadway, perhaps because it looks so different from a typical street.
Speed studies conducted at two mid-block locations in this three-block project indicate favorable results. The 85th percentile speed was 17 mi/h at one location and 18 mi/h at the other. The highest recorded speeds were 23 mi/h. This compares favorably to the speed studies of Willamette and Olive where, even with raised mid-block crossings on Willamette, the 85th percentile speeds were 20 mi/h on Willamette Street and 22 mi/h on Olive.
Informal feedback from other city staff, downtown businesses, bicyclists, and the general public was very supportive of the overall design and the specific techniques used to provide a safer and slower mix of auto and bicycle traffic. Some of this positive feedback may have related more to the favorable impression most of the community had about the look and feel of the new street. However, the general impression and community buzz about a project are important aspects of the projects effectiveness and public acceptance of innovative design features.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Encouraging participation by private sector consultants, key stakeholders, and interested public as full participants in the design of the project from the beginning was a powerful strategy for gaining acceptance and moving forward with strong support for the project. By the time the city Planning Commission reviewed and approved the design concept, nearly all the issues had been resolved and the various stakeholder groups all strongly supported the project as presented. Many property owners believed the opening of Broadway to automobiles was critical to their success. Their interest helped sustain the forward movement of the project.
Getting motorists to slow down so that bicyclists could share the space and pedestrians felt safe when crossing the street appeared to depend on narrowing the travel lanes as much as possible. The lanes needed to be narrow in an actual, physical sense (e.g., 10 or 11 feet wide), and they also needed to look and feel narrow to motorists. The look and feel can be achieved by a combination of narrow lanes along with conspicuous edges (e.g., use of a median island) and design elements like trees and shrubs at the edges and in the median to eliminate the look of a long straightaway. Other components of the design included parking bays along both sides of the street; minimizing pavement markings; lane lines and signs along the street, to avoid the look and feel of a major traffic artery; and raising the major intersection of Broadway and Willamette to meet the grade of the adjacent public plaza and create a speed table.
Parking bays, raised intersections, and narrow lanes help calm traffic.
Continuing up the learning curve
Since the opening of the redesigned Broadway segment, the city has further enhanced pedestrian and bicyclist facilities in the area by adding shared lane markings, accessible pedestrian signals at Olive and 10th, and a bike corral on Olive Street. Apart from those upgrades, the streets maintain the same basic design as when they opened.
Broadway seems to reinforce the notion that the two best ways to provide for bikes on streets are a) striped lanes with adequate, separate spaces for cyclists and motorists, or b) very narrow lanes shared by bikes and autos. However, there are likely to be situations in Eugene and other locations where wider, shared lanes work better, or some other combination of features should be tried, especially in view of the needs of transit and emergency vehicles.
Costs and Funding
The total cost of the project was $2.1 million, including preliminary and construction engineering. Landscaping, irrigation, and street furniture accounted for about $185,500. Accommodating an existing brick outdoor plaza at the center of the project and incorporating it into the street design increased the project cost considerably. A breakdown of project costs is available upon request from the Eugene Department of Public Works.
Street furniture, bicycle racks, and landscaping were considered part of the cost of the project.
Generally the city assesses a certain portion of a projects cost to adjacent property owners. Since this area had previously been a street before it became a pedestrian mall, a second assessment was not possible. However, the business owners along the project were anxious for the conversion back to a city street and donated $200,000 for the project. The county provided $1.6 million in road funds and the city of Eugene paid the balance from former Commercial Revitalization Loan funds.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator
Department of Public Works
City of Eugene, Oregon